This is one in a series of posts of Austin FC’s celebration of Black History Month, presented by Austin FC & Founding Partners YETI, Q2, St. David’s HealthCare, and Netspend. Our last profile highlight is available here.
Jerald Shoetan is a Huston-Tillotson student-athlete in his freshman year, awaiting the restart of men’s soccer. The winger and midfielder was born in Ghana, and was recruited to play at HT after finishing his high school playing career at Liberty Hill High School. As part of Austin FC’s celebration of Black History Month, we talked with Shoetan about his thoughts on being a Black student-athlete at HT and in Austin.
First off, we wanted to know a bit about your journey and how you came to HT.
“My family moved around a lot, and in my whole high school career I've been to three different high schools. Liberty Hill was my last one, which was my senior year. I'd been playing soccer for a while, and I ended up getting offers from a few schools that were far away from Austin, as well as from Huston-Tillotson.
“I went on visits to those schools, but the summer before I was going to go into college, my Dad passed away. It was very sudden, and unexpected. It was really hard. Financially, he was the head of the household, he was the main person paying all the bills. So when he passed away, I had to take a couple of jobs just to try and help my mother. I decided to go to HT, because it was close to home, so I would be able to help my mom out financially, with stuff around the house, and with my siblings. Honestly, it has been the best choice I've made.”
Your mom says that you learned to play soccer before you walked — we’re curious about that, and what drew you to soccer from such a young age?
“In Africa, and in Ghana especially, soccer is really big. That's really the only sport I've ever known growing up. So that influenced me a lot, growing up around people who've always been playing. You could go outside and just see people playing on the street. It’s everywhere. As for the story about me playing soccer before I could walk ... I was a late bloomer in the walking stage! So when everybody else was walking, I was still on the floor crawling, and I would play with the ball while I was on the floor.
“I've loved soccer ever since I started playing it. It's always been there for me. So that's been one of the hardest things to give up in the pandemic, especially when it's been my fallback. But sports are on hold right now because of the pandemic. I was bummed out, because I was really looking forward to playing. But our coaches have been really helpful in making sure we're getting stuff done outside of soccer.”
How have your coaches at HT helped you prepare for when soccer comes back, and how else have they helped you since you’ve been at HT?
“Coach [Joshua] Reyes, he’s a really good guy. He’s scheduled weekly psychology classes, this is something he started just to help us outside of soccer, mentally, for whatever we’ve got going on at home, because we’ve all got our own little problems we’re dealing with. This is something we’re doing on Zoom every week, really getting to know ourselves and ways to be better in our daily lives.
“As far as training, we have Zoom workouts at six in the morning twice a week, just basic stuff to keep us in shape, like weight training, crunches, squats. Team chemistry is really hard because of the pandemic, it makes everything so difficult. Every Friday, we have a Zoom meeting where we just get together to talk, to catch up. We talk about what's going on, ways to get better, and then we also talk about the soccer side of it because we are soccer players. He just coaches us in every way he can, really.
“The players, we can depend on each other. Even though I personally haven't met a lot of the players, because I'm a freshman, I know I can call them or text them if I need something, if I need advice.”
The phrase “persistence is power” is used quite a bit at HT; what does that mean to you?
“‘Persistence is power’ is fighting through whatever obstacle you have, knowing that it will pay off because we've been taught from a young age to keep going. We might think it’s just a saying, but those little sayings have a lot of meaning to them. If you work hard, you might fail, but even if you do fail, you’re going to learn from your mistakes. And if you keep going, you're going to get better with those mistakes. With the pandemic, that's what we have to do. We’ve got to keep persisting.
“When my dad passed away, it was really hard. But my mom, she kept persisting, going to work even though she didn't want to. Losing a loved one is really hard, it can put you in a depressed state, but she kept persisting, knowing she had to take care of us and that there were bills that needed to be paid. We just all understood that.
“Even though this is a low point in our life, if we keep persisting and keep going, we're going to be able to make the best of it. We were able to buy a new house by persisting. We’re in the process of moving into it right now.”
If you could talk to the people of Austin about HT, what would you tell them about the school and the community?
“The atmosphere. You can tell that coaches really care about the players, they care about each other. It really feels like a family. You have people checking up on you every day, just making sure you're alright, especially during the pandemic. That's why I'm so happy I joined HT, to have that family atmosphere.”